U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., doubled down on his efforts to prevent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from experimenting on dogs.
Mast, who sits on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee and lost both his legs during his service in Afghanistan, teamed up with U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., on Wednesday to unveil the “Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act” which “will put an end to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ practice of performing painful and distressing experiments on dogs, including drilling into dogs’ skulls, inducing heart attacks, and collapsing their lungs.”
On Wednesday, Mast weighed in on why he had introduced the proposal.
“While I was recovering from my injuries, I saw firsthand the important role that dogs play in helping veterans recover from war’s physical and psychological tolls,” Mast said. “For too long, the VA has gotten away with conducting these harmful—sometimes fatal—experiments on dogs. These tests are abusive, waste taxpayer dollars and must be stopped.”
“It’s time to end dog testing at the VA once and for all,” Titus said. “There are proven alternatives to this unnecessary testing that inflicts severe pain on puppies and dogs while producing no discernible medical advances. I’m grateful for the support of Congressman Mast and the many animal welfare and veterans’ organizations that are helping advance this legislation to put an end to this barbaric practice.”
The bill “prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs from purchasing, breeding, transporting, housing, feeding, maintaining, disposing of or experimenting on dogs as part of the conduct of any study that causes significant pain or distress.”
Mast and Titus reeled in the support of a number of different groups including AMVETS, American Military Retirees Association, DisabledVeterans.org, American Humane Society and the White Coat Waste Project.
“The PUPPERS Act is more than a measure that would end the senseless abuse of canines in VA research labs,” American Veterans Chief Advocacy Officer Sherman Gillums Jr. said. “It would also put an end to the empty promises that veterans with chronic and serious medical conditions, like heart disease, cancer, and spinal cord injury, have relied on for far too long. At some point, scientific research needs to deliver results that make it worth the costs. In the case of VA canine research, there were no real results for decades. Therefore, there should be no more costs — especially when they involve inflicting pain on the same animals that families keep as pets and police officers rely on to find bombs and drugs. Most importantly to me, combat-wounded veterans use these same animals to replace lost function and cope with invisible injuries. The PUPPERS Act embodies the conscience of our society, and it’s time to let conscience guide our actions by passing this important bill.”
Earlier in the month, the VA’s Inspector General office announced it will review the agency’s experiments on dogs. Mast been pushing to end the experiments.
Mast, who helped write the bill defunding the tests, was glad to see the review begin.
“We need to get to the bottom of how these harmful experiments on dogs have continued after we passed a law explicitly defunding them,” Mast said earlier in the month. “After suffering injuries on the battlefield myself, I am definitely aware of the vital role dogs play in helping troops recover from war’s physical and psychological tolls. These tests are abusive, unnecessary and a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Mast and other members of Congress wrote the VA on the matter back in August. In September, VA Sec. Robert Wilkie noted there were almost 10 experiments continuing which former VA Sec. David Shulkin approved before President Donald Trump fired him in March.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.